Man Booker prize winner

All posts in the Man Booker prize winner category

Possession – A.S. Byatt

Published July 2, 2013 by bibliobeth

Possession

What’s it all about?:

Winner of the 1990 Man Booker prize, Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once an intellectual mystery and triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets. As they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire—from spiritualist séances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany—what emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passions and ideas.

What did I think?:

When I first started reading this novel, I really wasn’t sure but I was told to stick with it and I’m so glad I did, it really sucked me in. It is the tale of Roland and Maud, who study the poets Randolph Ash and Christabel LaMotte respectively(both poets are fictionalised by the author). On finding a forgotten and intriguing letter penned by Ash in a library book, Roland cannot contain his excitement that it could shed new light on the poet and change literary history. Roland meets Maud Bailey, who is actually a descendant of LaMotte, and the two uncover a multitude of love letters between the two poets. It turns out that Ash and LaMotte had a passionate love affair (Ash already having a wife, Ellen), and by re-tracing their steps and reading their letters they discover a beautiful story and hidden secrets.

Warning – if you don’t like poetry you’re probably not going to get on well with this book, there are a lot of verses. I think that was probably what impressed me most about this novel, not only that Byatt imagined these two poets, but that she constructed their poems herself, verses which can only be described as accomplished and magnificent. The way that we learn about the love between Ash and LaMotte is through the same way that Roland and Maud discover it – through reading the letters, biographies, journal entries, fairy tales and deciphering the poems, and is in my opinion, a unique way to tell a story. Not only that, but Byatt writes in a multitude of voices and styles, for the numerous characters present in this book and their differing personalitites. This book was definitely a worthy winner of the Man Booker prize, and I’m still stumped at how the hell she did it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Life of Pi – Yann Martel

Published March 11, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Growing up in Pondicherry, India, Piscine Molitor Patel – known as Pi – has a rich life. Bookish by nature, young Pi acquires a broad knowledge of not only the great religious texts but of all literature, and has a great curiosity about how the world works. His family runs the local zoo, and he spends many of his days among goats, hippos, swans, and bears, developing his own theories about the nature of animals and how human nature conforms to it. Pi’s family life is quite happy, even though his brother picks on him and his parents aren’t quite sure how to accept his decision to simultaneously embrace and practice three religions – Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam.

But despite the lush and nurturing variety of Pi’s world, there are broad political changes afoot in India, and when Pi is sixteen, his parents decide that the family needs to escape to a better life. Choosing to move to Canada, they close the zoo, pack their belongings, and board a Japanese cargo ship called the Tsimtsum. Travelling with them are many of their animals, bound for zoos in North America. However, they have only just begun their journey when the ship sinks, taking the dreams of the Patel family down with it. Only Pi survives, cast adrift in a lifeboat with the unlikeliest of travelling companions: a zebra, an orang-utan, a hyena, and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Thus begins Pi Patel’s epic, 227-day voyage across the Pacific, and the powerful story of faith and survival at the heart of Life of Pi. Worn and scared, oscillating between hope and despair, Pi is witness to the playing out of the food chain, quite aware of his new position within it. When only the tiger is left of the seafaring menagerie, Pi realizes that his survival depends on his ability to assert his own will, and sets upon a grand and ordered scheme to keep from being Richard Parker’s next meal.

What did I think?:

I first read this book about ten years ago in 2002 when it was first published and won the Man Booker prize. Reading it then, I didn’t much care for it at all, and couldn’t see the point. However, reading it ten years older (and perhaps a bit wiser?) the book has done a complete turn around for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have heard that some people enjoyed the second part of the novel more than the first, but I have to disagree. Part One introduced us to the wonderful world of Pi – a boy who practices three different religions at once (well, why not?) and whose father is a zookeeper. I wasn’t sure about the religious undertones, and I think this was probably why I didn’t “get” the book first time round, but I actually found a greater appreciation for it this time and thought it all a bit mysterious and intriguing. One of the funniest parts of the book is when Pi happens to bump into all three of his religious masters at once – “No, this boy is a good Christian!” “No, a Hindu!” “No, a Muslim!”

The second part of the novel, post shipwreck, is so beautifully drawn the reader can almost imagine that they are right there on that lifeboat with Richard Parker, (BRILLIANT name for a tiger) going through all the challenges that one faces when sharing an enclosed space with a grumpy man-eater. I am really looking forward to seeing the film now, but was determined to give the book one more try and I’m so glad I did. The author in an interview describes how he was inspired to write this novel by speaking to an Indian man in a coffee house who told him he had a story for him that would make him believe in God. And as the story concludes, we are left with the message that it is the more imaginative tale which may hold the most truth.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0